Six Day sprinters perform some super-human feats in racing round the track at speeds approaching 75km per hour, but Maximilian Levy’s achievement in winning Six Day Berlin having broken his collarbone just 12 days prior can rightly earn him the Superman title.
On January 7, 2017, Levy crashed and sustained a third broken collarbone of his career.
Those in the know often describe a collarbone break as one of the most painful experiences someone can endure, but Levy – who returns to Six Day London next month for a second crack at the sprinters’ title – is no ordinary man.
He was straight into surgery, having a metal plate and pins inserted into his left shoulder, and never lost sight of his goal.
After a promising performance at Six Day London, last October, and a win at Six Day Amsterdam in December, Levy was in fine shape heading into his 11th appearance at Six Day Berlin.
A sixth win was well within sight, but the crash put all that up in the air as his participation was thrown into doubt.
That was for the outsiders, though, as he and his medical team worked feverishly to get him in shape to start the event on January 19.
“They put in a metal plate in and two days later I was thinking ‘why not race’,” said the 29-year-old.
“I felt pretty good, and I knew how to deal with it, in terms of what I could do and what I couldn’t, and I had some good therapists so we tried to give the muscles the chance to come back in the shoulder, with some special training.
“Just five days after the crash I could do some pushups, which is nearly impossible normally, but if you train and do it right, with special training for each single muscle to get them started again, then it’s possible.
“The decision was that I would then go to Berlin. I knew it wasn’t the best preparation for my legs, with no track training, but I really wanted to go and that is maybe sometimes more important than what is good or not for the legs.
“Winning there showed that I was still in pretty good condition, and in good mind.”
In the opening days of the race Levy still led the time trial standings, but was being bested in the match sprints as he struggled with his recovery.
He did enough to keep high in the standings, though, and after the second day, when the screws were removed from his collarbone, his form in the sprints returned.
“At this point I knew I could win overall,” he admitted. “And the others, in the keirin, were being very fair and not hitting my shoulder – they knew what was going on with my injury, no-one attacked me on the left hand side.
“Then in the end I think I won it by about ten points, or something.
“The bruises and open skin from grazes when I crashed hurt even more than the collarbone. They took out the screws on the Friday night, and so that was maybe also why I was going much better on Saturday.
“Maybe I had some more freedom to move?”
Remarkably, notwithstanding the broken collarbone and soft tissue damage from his crash, Levy was also racing with a 1.5cm tear in an abdominal muscle that had led to a pocket of fluid accumulating, further impeding his pedalling speed.
“Maybe that was the biggest problem,” he added. “Because when I went into the superman position for riding the sprints, then there was not enough space for pedalling with a big swelling of fluid – that was maybe the most painful position on my bike.”
The swelling subsided around six weeks after the Berlin event concluded, but his participation in his home town had still had a knock on effect for his season.
Just a week after the event he was going under the knife again after suffering an allergic reaction to the plate in his shoulder.
That meant more time off the bike, and despite him being back in training in March, he missed the World Championships in Hong Kong the following month.
Now though, with a clean bill of health and a summer of riding ahead of him, he already has his sights set on a seventh crown in Berlin next January.
“I have a few Class 1 races to get points for the UCI rankings, to make the World Cup spots for qualifying, then later, in October, we have the European Championships in Berlin,” he concluded.
“That is also a big thing because in 20 years we have never had a big race in Germany, so this is my next main goal.
“Right after the Europeans is the London Six Day, then straight after that are the first two World Cups in Poland and Manchester.
“They are the big steps, then after we see for qualifying for the World Championships and the Berlin Six Days.”
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